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College Basketball's Latest Black Eye

College basketball is no stranger to public controversy. In fact, an episode of a currently-airing ESPN docu-series, "Basketball: A Love Story," retells the story of the 1950s point-shaving scandal involving multiple players on 7 college basketball teams. Point-shaving schemes in the basketball programs at Boston College, Tulane, and Northwestern in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, respectively, would eventually lead to federal investigations, legal proceedings, and jail sentences for those involved. 

Although pernicious, and even pervasive at an earlier time, point-shaving has become a remote concern in modern college basketball. The greatest concern in college basketball today is the legitimacy of the recruitment process, which has long been suspected of violating the NCAA's requirement of amateur status for college athletes. A window into the rampant corruption in the recruitment process--including large sums of money transferred to recruits by a shoe company--was blown open when federal prosecutors and the FBI investigated Adidas' under-the-table deals with college basketball recruits.

This week, a jury found that two Adidas executives and a sports agent were guilty of wire-fraud. Interestingly, the argument employed by the prosecution, was that the defendants "not only deceived universities into issuing scholarships under false pretenses, they deprived the universities of their economic rights and tarnished an ideal which makes college sports a beloved tradition by so many fans all over the world.”[1]

While it is hard to imagine how universities with sports programs that were at least complicit with these practices could have been victimized, it is absolutely true that the economic rights of the seven universities with basketball programs under investigation (Arizona, Auburn, Louisville, North Carolina State, Miami, Oklahoma State, and Southern California) were hindered as a result of the unscrupulous actions of individuals within the basketball program, a reminder that college sports programs exist because of universities, and not the other way around.

It remains to be seen how the NCAA will penalize the programs involved in the scandal, as they hold off on their investigation while the federal investigation is still playing out. What is certain is that the result will have lasting impacts on how the future of the sport, the first of which may well be the death knell of the one-and-done rule when the NBA announced last week that the best high school prospects could forgo one year in college to receive a $125,000 salary by entering the NBA’s developmental G-league. Perhaps, with this blanket rule impacting all college basketball programs, college basketball can begin to repair its image by cleaning up its act.


[1]Marc Tracy, Three Found Guilty in N.C.A.A. Basketball Recruiting Scheme, New York Times, Oct. 24, 2018,

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